"I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone– for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness." –1 Timothy 2:1-2
It was President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who decreed through a Presidential Proclamation that Mindanao Week of Peace be celebrated each year "to raise consciousness for a culture of peace among the peoples of Mindanao… (by providing) a venue for expression of peace aspirations in various forms and for convergence of peace initiatives".
But how can the culture of peace be promoted when, according to the military, it is the
president herself who commanded for the massive military operations? It is the president herself who does not educate her armed forces to respect human rights at all times in the course of military operations?
Since November 4, 2007, cases of harassments and coercion, of military men staying in civilian houses and setting up camps in the middle of the communities were documented. Because of these more than 2,500 lumad evacuees crammed themselves in the congested evacuation centers or stayed in abandoned farm huts and kindhearted relatives. For who would wait for community members to be tortured, for community leaders to “disappear” after they were made to change places with their young who were abducted by the military?
The lumads and settlers of hinterland communities in Surigao Sur lived in peace – developing and improving their livelihood, educating their young, rebuilding lives two years after their communities were destroyed in 2005. Human rights violations that accompanied the current military operations destroyed that peace.
They are hungry, cold and the denial of their demand for military operations to stop and/or for their rights to be respected frustrates them. There can be no peace in the midst of fear and hunger.
They want to go home and live in peace, free to pursue their dreams of existing peacefully.
In this time of Christmas, let us support their demands so goodwill and peace will reign. As the Holy scripture says: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men!” – Luke 2.14
REV. FR. MANUEL CRUZ, IFI
Promotion of Church Peoples’ Rights, Surigao del Sur